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Let them play

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i High School softball coach DeeshanaLynn Tafiti is being bombarded with texts from his anxious players wanting to get out on the field.

Tafiti, who currently has a total of six seniors on his Red Raiders’ squad, had no choice but to squander the hopes of his anxious players to comply with the Hawai‘i High School Athletic Association, who ruled on March 16 that both practice and interscholastic competition were “suspended indefinitely” to minimize the potential community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The shock of the suspension hit Tafiti hard, whose sister, Dreanalynn Tafiti, is a first basemen-pitcher for Kaua‘i High.

“Dreanalynn is upset, and I know the other seniors are upset because there are a lot of unknowns school-wise for these kids,” Tafiti said. “They aren’t just thinking about the sports aspect, but they are wondering if they are going to be able to graduate and walk in their cap and gown.”

The HHSAA board will meet March 23 to reevaluate the situation and make a new determination on how they will handle the remaining scheduled events moving forward.

“The priority of the HHSAA continues to be concerned with the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and members of the community,” stated the organization’s Executive Director Chris Chun in a press release. “We hope that play can resume before the school year ends but must be mindful not to jeopardize the health of our community in doing so. This decision was not made lightly and is supported unanimously by our member leagues.”

Kapa‘a High School softball coach Micah Furtado is coming to terms with the reality of the prospect that spring season is over for his team.

Furtado admits he’s never experienced this type of delay throughout his entire coaching and playing career, a career that has spanned more than two decades and includes a stint in the minor leagues with the Texas Rangers’ organization.

Furtado and his team are dealing with the HHSAAA mandate as best they can.

“It’s been rough,” Furtado admits. “I’ve heard one employer refer to it as a ‘shortened goodbye.’ We had an abbreviated senior night, and I told the players to ‘stay optimistic.’ People are now in a different mode, and they want to protect their family, kids, and grandparents. Right now, it’s family first. You have to trim the excess fat and focus on the immediate people at this point.”

On their own

Currently, the coaches are allowed to stay in contact with their players but are still making the adaption, according to Waimea High School softball coach Teddy Perreira.

Players will be impacted the most are senior players vying for their last chance to get noticed by the NCAA, NAIA, or NJCAA-sanctioned colleges to continue their playing career.

Under normal circumstances, it is up to the individual players to position themselves to get collegiate scholarships or be noticed by scouts.

This will limit the players’ exposure to increase their stock with prospective scouts because of the reduced schedule.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Perreira. “I think this will affect seniors. This is out of our hands, and we can’t do anything.”

Creating videos and coaches helping endorse players is a vital part of the recruiting game, and to achieve a successful sales pitch, they have to compile a video collection to showcase their talent.

“(All six of my players) are looking for scholarships,” Tafiti said. “They still haven’t gotten that figured out what colleges yet, and I haven’t been able to make them any videos for the seniors. Having a video is vital for all KIF players to advance their career to the collegiate ranks. I may have one video for my seniors ready. It’s just so hard right now, and I feel bad.”

Currently, there is a movement on social-media called #letthekidsplay, which is showcasing highlights of several softball players across the country going through the same situation.

At the collegiate level, the NCAA has extended it’s the eligibility for some of the players affected by the crisis, but that doesn’t include thousands of other prospective recruits still fighting to get noticed.

“They are all really smart kids, and they want to do something with their lives after high school, so it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around this,” Tafiti said. “Softball is their outlet for all of the stress in their lives. I know because they are texting me’ coach, can we meet up and practice? I have to tell them, ‘we can’t,’ and they have to do as much work as they can on their own.”

Getting exposure at the collegiate level takes more than skill. It’s about positioning yourself in the right place at the right time, and all of that takes financial resources and the ability to travel.

Getting noticed

This is especially true for island athletes trying to generate mainland exposure.

“Getting recruited is like a sales pitch,” Tafiti said. “It’s like buying a car, and you aren’t going to buy a car if no one looks at it. My heart goes out to these kids, and everything that they are going through, especially with these seniors.”

Furtado admits he knows people that are twice his age that has never experienced a predicament like this.

“I think it’s like anything else in life, and you just have to press forward,” Furtado said. “You have to take the opportunities that you have, and be ready to present yourself for whatever or wherever you need to press forward. I had a couple of talks with my seniors. I told them it’s not the end of their life, and if you still want to prepare yourself, you have to keep pressing on for the future. The future is tomorrow, and you have to be prepared when the opportunity arises.”

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Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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